Friday, September 15, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner {Put This One on Your TBR List} Book Review: Rooks and Ruin Trilogy by Melissa Caruso

{Put This One on Your TBR List}

Book Review: Rooks and Ruin Trilogy by Melissa Caruso

by Karen S. Wiesner

Per my usual, I came into author Melissa Caruso's high fantasy work through the back door. In other words, I read the second trilogy before realizing there was even a first, also set in the world of Eruvia where there are two main established powers. In the first trilogy, Swords and Fire, the Serene Empire has an elected doge, a Council of Nine, and a general assembly. Raverra is the central city-state there. The second trilogy, Rooks and Ruin, the one I read, which takes place 150 years later, is set in Vaskandar, a domain ruled by Witch Lords (essentially, mages). These two empires are in conflict. However, the author intended for the two series to be "largely unrelated" aside from taking place in the same setting. She made sure there were no spoilers for the first trilogy within the second. She's said that the focus of Swords and Fire is "more political intrigue and fancy balls" while Rooks and Ruin has "more magical secrets and spooky castles". Caruso recommends reading the trilogies in order, but says either way works, which I did find to be the case.

Rooks and Ruin features Ryx as the main character. She's the Warden in her home domain, Morgrain, ruled over by her grandmother. Four hundred years earlier, the Nine Demons came into the mortal world and thrust humanity into chaotic horror and suffering. Since then, the creatures were trapped behind a gate in the Black Tower of Gloamingard Castle, which ended the Dark Days. Ryx's family are caretakers of the gate the demons are trapped behind. Not surprisingly, someone wants to open the magically sealed Door and bring forth what was banished.

Ryx is an intriguing character. From an early age, her magic has been "broken". She drains life from everyone and everything she touches. Her home is as much a prison as it is a haven--and a lonely one for her at that. Rooks and Ruin begins with the villain succeeding in unlocking the gate and Ryx, along with the Rookery (a "magical troubleshooting squad"), having to clean up and contain the mess made. A lot of destructive, twisting secrets are revealed along the way to this goal. The cast is compelling while the world building caused me to seek out previous stories set in this world. That's when I found out about the first trilogy I'd somehow missed.

In truth, the first book, The Obsidian Tower, is the one that captured me the most with the magical mayhem I'm always on the lookout for, compelling me to want to finish the trilogy. The two novels that followed, The Quicksilver Court and The Ivory Tower, were well-written in every regard. However, I found my attention less transfixed with them. I suspect this was the case, in part, because of what one reviewer called "empire politics and political intrigue" dominating subsequent entries in the trilogy. Since the author self-described Swords and Fire as also being focused in the same way, I do worry I might find myself withdrawing from them as well, but I do intend to read them at some point. In any case, lovers of quality fantasy should love all the related books in this series.

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